What does “sex positive” mean?
The term “sex positive” can be interpreted in different ways. For most, it involves having positive attitudes about sex and feeling comfortable with one’s own sexual identity and with the sexual behaviors of others.
Sex positive people tend to have the following traits:
- They are open to learning more about sex and sexual activity. They try to understand their bodies, their partners’ bodies, and all of the physical, emotional, and psychological aspects involved with intimacy. If they have questions about sex, they feel comfortable asking.
- They understand the importance of safe sex for both themselves and their partners. Safe sex can include discussing sexual histories, using condoms, and being tested for sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) like HIV. It can also include emotional and psychological safety, such as supporting a partner with a sexual dysfunction or one with a history of sexual abuse.
- They consider sex to be a healthy part of life that should be enjoyed. For sex positive people, sex can be discussed without shame or awkwardness. It is not a taboo subject.
- They acknowledge that sometimes they won’t want to have sex and that partners might not want to have sex with them.
- They accept others’ sexual practices, as long as the participants consent and feel safe, without moral judgment. This means accepting sexual behaviors that might be different from their own, such as having many partners, engaging in threesomes, or swapping marital partners.
This also means accepting others’ sexual orientations and lifestyles without judgment.
Being sex positive can be complicated. For example, some sexual behaviors may not align with a person’s cultural and religious values. Or, a person might have experienced sexual trauma in the past. Such trauma can be difficult to discuss and make that person feel anxious and frightened in sexual situations.
Overall, however, the concept of being sex positive involves understanding your own sexuality and what it means for you and your relationships.
IPPF welcomes the contribution of all young people – it’s part of our philosophy as a volunteer organization. We work with young people in many ways: as policy and decision makers, as advocates and as researchers. We are pioneers in ensuring that young people are equal partners at the highest level of governance and policy-making within our organization, and at putting the provision of youth friendly services at the centre of our work. Traditionally, young people work with us as peer educators. Although we are not primarily an education body, over 80 per cent of IPPF Member Associations are involved in peer education in one way or another. Peer education programmes are, for many of our Member Associations, a way to integrate young people into our sexual and reproductive health services and to increase their active participation. Worldwide, we use the peer education approach in many different ways, at different venues and involving a great diversity of young people. Most commonly our approach involves trained peer educators providing sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information, services and referrals, through youth centres and outreach activities, to young people in-school and out-of-school. IPPF’s aim is to support young people – both the peer educators themselves and those receiving information and services – to exercise their rights to sexual health, diversity and choice. We see peer educators as more than simply agents for behavioural change in themselves and their peers – our programmes show a commitment to also empowering them as individuals. In other words, a rightsbased approach to peer education helps young people to develop the SRH knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to make their own choices regarding their sexuality and health.
By developing our own framework on peer education, we are building on existing versions to promote a new model that will reflect IPPF’s broader agenda of sexual and reproductive rights. We want to show how peer education enables young people to make their own informed choices regarding their sexuality and health. This is why any IPPF peer education initiative should be backed by a full range of information and services concerning young people’s sexual and reproductive health. To promote a rights-based perspective within peer education. To do so we have to look initially at ourselves; at our attitudes towards working with young people as partners in education and counselling, how we are working together, and what can we do to promote young people’s positive enjoyment of their sexual and reproductive rights. Finally, an essential component of successful peer education programmes is an emphasis on quality in terms of providing accurate information and choices, technical competence, sufficient training, effective motivation, youth-friendly clinical services, continuity and appropriate follow-up and referral. Good linkages with other programmes within the Member Association and the wider community are another central aspect of IPPF peer education programmes. Although peer education is beneficial in many ways, it cannot respond to young people’s widely varying needs on its own. Rather, it can be an essential part of a wider initiative to more comprehensively address young people’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.